Chinese premier to chat with Internet users

2011-03-02 11:35:34

BEIJING, Feb. 27 (Xinhua) -- Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao will hold an online chat with Internet users across the country and overseas on Sunday, the third time the leader has participated in the event prior to the annual session of China"s top legislature.

Wen will answer questions posted by Internet users at www.xinhuanet.com, the official website of Xinhua News Agency. The chat is scheduled for 9 a.m. (Beijing time) and will be shown live on the central government"s website (www.gov.cn) and www.xinhuanet.com.

Three hours after the news was announced, nearly 7,000 questions about hefty housing prices, inflation, wealth gap and other social issues have been posted for the chat on www.xinhuanet.com

"Premier Wen, the housing prices have been increasing. I"ve waited for five years, yet the longer I wait, the less able I am to afford an apartment. I hope the government can take decisive measures to let the masses have their own homes," said an Internet user who goes by the name of "a household without an apartment."

The concern over high housing prices are shared by many Internet users living in large cities like Beijing and Shanghai, where property prices are so high that even the lifetime savings of an ordinary worker would not be enough for an apartment.

But one Internet user from central China"s less-developed Anhui Province expressed concern about house prices in small and medium-sized cities.

"In a place as under-developed as ours, apartment prices have risen to over 5,000 yuan (769 U.S. dollars) for one square meter," the comment read.

Many other queries were about key livelihood issues such as employment, education, medicare and corruption. Some also cared about economic development, energy security and environmental pollution in the country, which has the largest number of Internet users in the world.

Sunday"s chat will be the third time the premier has held such a discussion before the National People"s Congress, China"s top legislature, convenes its annual session in March.

Wen held his first online chat on February 28, 2009 at the two websites, receiving questions from nearly 300,000 Internet and mobile phone users about issues such as unemployment, wealth gap, social justice and democracy.

In last year"s chat on February 27, Wen pledged that the government would step up efforts to rein in soaring property prices and manage inflation expectations.

***Remarkable quotes from Premier Wen"s online chats with netizens*** 

The following are some quotable quotes made by Premier Wen.

Pension for retirees

To address the issue that retirees in governmental departments and institutions have enjoyed much better treatment than those retiring from businesses, Wen said that the government had increased pension by up to 10 percent every year for business retirees over the past seven years, but their wages were still relatively low.

"We will continue to improve their treatment, especially for those engineers with high education," he said.

He added pension system reform would be steadily carried out in governmental departments and institutions.

People"s living standards

To enhance the people"s living standards is "our work"s starting point as well as the final aim," Wen said, adding  that China"s development blueprint for the coming five years will place high emphasis on the efforts to improve the people"s livelihood.

Consumer prices

When answering netizens" questions online concerning rising price pressures, he said that maintaining the stability of prices has always been the priority of China"s economic development as excessive increase in consumer prices would not only affect people"s life but also hamper social stability.

Migrant workers" children

Wen pledged  the country will build more high-quality rural schools and take measures to make the nine-year compulsory education in cities more accessible to migrant workers" children.

Housing prices

In response to netizens complaints about soaring housing prices, Wen reiterated his determination to tame the country"s runaway housing prices. 

"We have to contain the excessive price growth and keep housing prices at a reasonable level," Wen said.

"I am still confident that we will achieve the goal of policies," he noted.

Wen said the government would work to increase housing supplies, with 36 million affordable homes planned in the five years to 2015, including 10 million this year.

Wen also said the government would "resolutely" curb demand of home purchases for investment and speculation.

"We will use economic, legal and administrative methods if necessary to restrict speculation," Wen said, adding he was confident the measures would eventually reduce speculation.

Education

Wen said that China"s rise lies in talents and education, not gross domestic product (GDP).

"The whole world is talking about China"s rise, and what the people talk about most is (China"s) GDP. But I think China"s rise lies in talents and education," he said.

He said he attaches greater importance to two other figures: the proportion of education expenditure in GDP and the proportion of scientific R&D expenditure in production.

He also said an important aspect for China"s higher-learning education reform is to encourage students" creative spirit and independent thinking, in a bid to foster more high-calibre talents.

Tax payment

While answering a netizen" online question about tax payment,Wen said that the State Council, the Cabinet, would discuss on Wednesday a plan to raise the threshold of personal income tax.

He said that the plan, if coming into effect, would benefit China"s whole medium and low-income groups, adding the plan would be delivered later to the National People"s Congress, the country"s top legislature, for review.

Energy consumption

Wen said that the country aims to reduce energy consumption per unit of gross domestic product (GDP) by 16 to 17 percent by 2015 from the current levels.

Wen criticized the mandatory black-out of residential power supply by local governments. He decried such actions as "self-deceptive" and harmful to people"s lives, ordering the localities to resume residential power supply immediately.

The goal of energy saving and emission cut should be met through the closure of high energy-consuming enterprises such as small power plants and steel mills, he noted.

GDP

Wen said  the government is to set its annual gross domestic product (GDP) growth target for the 2011-2015 period at 7 percent.

"We"ll never seek high economic growth rate and big size at the price of environment, as that would result in unsustainable growth featuring industrial overcapacity and intensive resource consumption," Wen said.

The central government would adopt new performance evaluation criteria for local governments and give more weight to efficiency, environment protection and the people"s living standards, said Wen.

***Backgrounder: Website of China"s central government 

The website of China"s central government (www.gov.cn), officially launched on Jan. 1, 2006, provides a platform for departments under the State Council, and the provincial, autonomous regional and municipal governments across the country to release information on government affairs while providing online services.

The portal, in simplified and traditional Chinese versions, has four sections which respectively provide information about government affairs, online services for citizens, enterprises and foreigners, interactive communication between governments and citizens, among other functions.

Its English version also provides business and traveling information services for non-Chinese speakers.

***Backgrounder: Internet development in China 
 
Following are the key facts about China"s Internet development:

In April 1994, China achieved its full-functional connection to the Internet by opening a 64 kbps international dedicated line to the Internet, and was then officially recognized as a country with full functional Internet accessibility.

In May of the same year, China"s first web server and the first set of web pages were launched by a research institute under Chinese Academy of Sciences, presenting a wide range of information about China including news, economy, technology, culture and business.

By October 1997, when the first Statistical Report on China"s Internet Development was released by the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC), China had a total of 620,000 Internet users, most of whom obtained their access to the Internet through dial-up services.

Thirteen years later, the number of Internet users rose to 457 million at the end of 2010, up 73.3 million from a year earlier, according to a report released by the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) in January.

That meant over one-third, or 34.3 percent, of China"s population was using the Internet at the end of last year.

About 66.2 percent of Internet users, or 303 million, used mobile phones to surf the net, an increase of 5.4 percentage points from the previous year.

Despite progress, China"s Internet capability still faces challenges. The average connection speed last year was relatively slow: merely 100.9 kbps (kilobytes per second). That was about half of the global average of 212.5 KBps, according to figures from the U.S. network giant Akamai in early 2010.

The number of Internet users in China"s rural areas totalled 125 million last year, up 16.9 percent from the previous year.8 The number of people shopping online climbed the most compared to other online services, up 48.6 percent year on year, followed by people using e-banking and online payment services, up 48.2 percent and 45.8 percent respectively.

The number of people going online via laptops grew at a faster pace than that of those surfing the net using mobile phones or desktops. About 45.7 percent of netizens used laptops to surf the net, a year-on-year increase of 15 percentage points.

New Internet applications have become increasingly popular in China. Microblogging users mushroomed to 53.11 million, about 13.8 percent of China"s total netizens at the end of last year.

More Chinese are using group-purchase websites to enjoy bulk discounts. Group-purchase websites in China emerged in January last year and have snowballed to about 1,800 now in operation. About 18.75 million or 4.1 percent of China"s Internet surfers used group-purchase websites.

Despite harsher measures on network security management, about 45.8 percent of Internet users encountered viruses including Trojans, while 21.8 percent of them fell victim to account break-ins and password theft.

 

 

 

(English.news.cn)